Levelling the Starting Line

By editor on January 28, 2018 — 4 mins read

The big thing that I wanted to figure out was — right at the time, it was the Arab spring. A year and a half before that, there were riots in Paris. There were terrorist attacks in London.

What I realized along the way was that I didn’t want to be some sort of bitter minority guy who’s like, “I’m getting fucked.” I didn’t get fucked. I got really lucky. But I empathize with that struggle. I empathize with the struggle of women, of other minorities, of LGBT.

The reason is that we all have to deal with signaling that’s telling us, “Here’s the pathway,” and you just don’t fit the pathway. And so you have a choice. My choice was to get enough capital where I could opt myself out.

For each person like me, who can create a safe harbor for their minority class, there are all of these people who are still trapped. They may resonate with you, but they are not empowered to get out.

It came to a head, where I was like, “If I’m going to do something, what are the things that I can do well and what do I want to accomplish?”

There’s a very capitalistic tendency that I have which is like, “I want to win, and I want to win at scale, and I want to prove that I’m one of the smartest people around. Whatever the game is, as the game gets more and more complex, I want to win the game.” I’m not a corpo-fucking-executype.

The more the complexity, and the higher the stakes get, I think I can actually get better and I like that challenge.

I want to be Steph Curry. It’s not good enough to hit 3’s from 29 feet. I want to be the guy that can hit consistent 3’s from 40 feet! Because that’s a dagger. When you’re that guy, you are unstoppable.

The reason that’s powerful is then you get a bully pulpit, where when you say something, it matters and it becomes the de facto expectation.

Whenever I have issues in relationships with people, even when my wife thinks I’m a total jerk, it’s because I sometimes get really Darwinian. Whoever wins the race should just win. But then I realize, how amazing it would be if everybody could run the race?

What if in every single fucking dimension, the best of the best won everything? What if the entrance into Harvard was a pure meritocracy. Total blind admission. You could not put your name. 15 million kids all around the world. Every fucking kid that went to that school would not be the kids going to the school right now.

Those kids [currently at Harvard] know, in their heart of hearts, they’re imposters. They’re there because somebody pulled the string, somebody wrote an essay, somebody packaged them.

The best of the best are not at Harvard. The best of the best are bumbling around, at best they could be at IIT, they could be at Waterloo, but they’re most likely working at a fucking cement factory in Nigeria.

To me, the disruption of upheaving society’s value system became all-encompassing. I think that solves all these problems. It solves people wanting to attack London, people going on shooting rampages in Paris, people lighting themselves on fire. Maybe nothing would change — but wouldn’t it be so interesting to see what happens?

Social Capital is trying to advance humanity by solving the world’s hardest problems. There are systems that are highly asymmetric today, that you can level with technology. You can make them totally symmetric, and in [so doing] you can get more people to the starting line.

Doing this can also make you, literally, trillions of dollars.

In all this technological upheaval there’s going to be massive wealth created, it’s going to get allocated to somebody. Better people with a moral imperative, who have a sense of equality and a sense of social justice, than a bunch of rich douchebags that are already rich.

Also in doing that, you work on the most interesting things.

And, you have a better chance of building them, because people are actually more interested in working on those than the shitty companies that they’d be working at.

And then, you create a system that’s interesting because you don’t know what the outcome is. It’s not pre-determined. And that’s what Social Capital is. We started as a venture firm because it allows us to use money and to invest capital on things that can be really enormous, and really impactful. It allows us in success to really define for people, incrementally, what those really important and valuable things are.

https://www.recode.net/2016/3/21/11587128/silicon-valleys-homogeneous-rich-douchebags-wont-win-forever-says (31:10)

Posted in: v2

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.